Taking a break from my regular topics to bring you an important reminder: celebrate love, every day. I’m talking about real love, radical love - the kind that changes you and the ones you love. Angela Davis said, “we have to act like we can change the world, and we have to do it every day.” To do this, we have to practice and celebrate love every day. Love is transformative. Creating the world we want is an act of love.
It’s so easy to lose sight of this. We have to remind ourselves often, because regular life involves so much forgetting about love. The world today is forgetful of love, and to change that world we need to start practicing and celebrating love all the time. It starts within our families and friends. It starts with whatever we are able to do, right now, however small. These small acts add up to new patterns that become new ways of life. So start practicing and celebrating love now, however you can, and watch it transform your life.
I lost sight of all this myself this week. Talking and writing about these things all the time doesn’t always help me do what I know is right, in the moment. Because life has been disruptive in many ways lately, I suddenly found myself blowing up at my mom in a very dramatic and hurtful way. My anger and frustration, searching for their explanation, constructed a story that pinned the blame on her unfairly. The truth was: if I’d been maintaining my inner calm, I’d never have treated her that way.
Later that same day, with a clear mind, I saw my failure. It hit home hard. I think of myself as someone who works every day not to be that kind of person, and here I’d blown up at my own mother. There is no greater sin than to make your mother cry. I wish I could take back all the times I’ve done it - they are the times I regret most. This time it shook me from what felt like a deep haze. I saw clearly that I was not being the person I want to be. Something needed to change.
I started with a deep and sincere apology. But really the only way I can “make it up” to her is just to show her more love all the time. The question for me is: why was that hard to do in the first place? Rumi wrote that the task of life is not to seek love, “but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” With that thought, I called together my whole household for a love celebration.
To be honest, it was awkward. I don’t really know what it means to “celebrate love” with my family. We don’t have any traditions or rituals where we do that, other than the typical birthdays and holidays. But to celebrate love, separate from those special occasions - what does that look like? I decided simply to call everyone together, without any structure, and share my thoughts. I basically said, “I don’t know what it looks like, but I think we should build it together and dedicate time for it every couple weeks.”
Ideally, you might think you’d just do it naturally every day. Even then, though, I think there is room for a dedicated time to pause everything else to give and receive some love. It’s good practice and it makes sure that everyday life doesn’t bring in too much forgetting. Life will dictate its own course if we don’t steer it. Rituals and traditions help us steer life in our own direction.
Traditions can become rote when they lose their meaning, and then can even stymie our expression of love. So make sure your love celebration is more than just emotions. What will make it meaningful for you? What sorts of things would feel like growth, if you practiced them? It can be as simple as setting aside a regular time to share love in an unstructured way. Each person can do it in their own way, or they can simply choose to receive if that’s more comfortable. And if you already have traditions that bring you together regularly, this can be a great thing to add to them.
We have to practice this in the same way with ourselves. Blowing up at my mom also reminded me that I have to love that part of me too. If I only love the person I want to be — the one that never does that — I’m not really loving myself as I actually am. And without loving myself, how will I ever become better?
We often don’t even admit to ourselves that we aren’t the person we want to be. We let our anger tell us that it’s the other person’s fault. They were wrong. They shouldn’t have done that. Even if that’s true, it can always be expressed in a kind way. Swami Brahmananda said, “Never utter one word that would hurt another: tell the truth, but never a harsh truth.”
When we slip from this, as we always will, we have to love the part of us that slips. When we do that, we become better at loving others for their imperfect selves too. That means loving them as they actually are, which helps them transform into who they want to be. Rumi wrote: “If I love myself, I love you. If I love you, I love myself.”
When we practice and celebrate love, our selves are interconnected. Or perhaps it’s better to say: we always are that interconnected, but love makes it real for us. We act from that place of interconnection when we love. We create a world with less separation, where the needs of others are our own. Love shows us who we actually are and who we need to become.
I felt this so deeply when I held my newborn nephew this week. His body so fragile and new, his life utterly dependent on our loving care. And without question, all we want to do is care for him in the right way so he can have the most full experience of life. That’s the meaning of the love relation, and it’s the most natural thing we do with our babies. As we grow older, it doesn’t come as naturally but it’s just as essential to our lives. We need it, and the world needs it, just as much as my newborn nephew. We have to practice love, we have to celebrate love, and we have to do it everyday.